If it’s one of those lazy weekends with nothing in sight, try throwing in a visit to one of London’s crazy, unique, and fun Sunday markets to jazz up your day. All these markets guarantee a good time and some (hopefully) harmless spending.
Old Spitalfields adds a classier twist to the idea of a London market. Known for its novel fashion and cutting-edge designers, the market confronts visitors with a wide variety of stalls and shops that sell tailored menswear, Parisian cheese, handcrafted eyewear, recycled accessories, kids clothes, cashmere and more. It is hard to pin down the entirety of what is sold because it varies so widely and changes throughout the week. This market is different from many others in London because it also includes international chains in its shop display, such as Wagamama and Flying Tiger. If you are free during the week, check out the market on a Thursday when it is dedicated to antiques and vintage or on a Friday when it is dedicated to fashion and art. Remember to come ready with cash, the long queues for the cash machine are not where you want to be.
There is no comparison for the bustle and life at the Brick Lane Market. It’s series of intertwined and quirky stalls spread around the area spilling into each other. A huge variety of goods are sold, whether you are searching for household items and tools, food ingredients, vintage clothing, antique items or a meal. There is also a flea-market feel to parts of the market. If you’re searching for bargain goods such as broken dolls or funky jewellery pieces, pay attention to the objects laid out on blankets on the ground. Just remember that the Brick Lane Market area will be chock full; visitors must be ready for large crowds. In recent years, Brick Lane Market has come to incorporate a number of individual markets within it, including The Tea Rooms, Backyard Market, Sunday Upmarket, Boiler Room and the Vintage Clothing Market (all of which are featured below).
These are perhaps the most eclectic part of Brick Lane. Located indoors in a relatively small area of a warehouse, The Tea Rooms consist of a series of stalls and shops selling everything from unique handcrafted jewellery and antique china to vinyl and old-fashioned suitcases. The motley assortment of products is complemented by a coffee shop in the back.
Backyard is focused on arts and crafts, proudly exhibited in its large assortment of stalls, which stand inside a warehouse and spread to the outside. This market caters to all the young creatives in the area who are ready to mingle with each other and check out new products and ideas.
One of the highlights of any trip to Brick Lane will be the food hall. Reflecting the international nature of the visitors, the food is incredibly varied, whether it be Asian fusion, Polish, Malaysian or whatever else you fancy. The grub is generally affordable, and for the more sophisticated lot, there is also a lounge bar and a secret beer garden to explore.
This market is really the heart of any Sunday at Brick Lane, tempting a visitor to spend a whole day among its variety of goods. In addition to its own set of artisan food stalls selling delicacies like Ethiopian coffee, hand-rolled sushi, Japanese sweets and fried plantain sandwiches, the Sunday Upmarket features more than 140 creative traders each week. They sell everything from fashion items and accessories to art, music and more. The newest addition is Homegrown Market on the upper levels, which sells mostly handcrafted and self-designed products, emitting a trendier vibe.
There is no better place to find vintage clothing than here. Stalls with clothing and accessories that span the 20th century are stacked one next to the other in the huge basement of a warehouse. Great for deals and steals, the market has anything you are looking for, from huge leather jackets and denim dresses to knitted sweaters and crop tops.
This market has a groovy style of its own, ensuring that any afternoon spent here will be both entertaining and surprising. The paraphernalia on offer ranges from the nostalgic to the downright goth-punk to the absolutely undefinable. All the goods are spread out across the various stalls, restaurants and stores selling food and drink, fashion and style items, art and collectables, music and more. No matter how many times you visit, this market will keep you coming back for more as it constantly changes and expands.
This subsection of Camden Market contributes massively to its overall success. Located in the small picturesque roads alongside the canals, Camden Lock is what initially attracted the masses, which now number more than 150,000 a week. It started in the 1970s, selling solely arts and crafts, and later expanded to include many quirky and independent traders that provide a far more fun alternative to the usual chain shops for gifts or clothing. Two highlights are the jewellery stalls that sell many handcrafted one-of-a-kind pieces and the crammed independent bookshops in the midst of it all.
Stop by Stables Market for a more physically contained, yet still highly hectic and original, shopping experience. The market has been recently reconstructed and expanded, and despite the shiny new surfaces, a slightly run-down and intimate atmosphere is somewhat maintained. The Proud Gallery is now located in what used to be a horse hospital, and holds a number of fascinating exhibitions each year. Retro furniture, alternative fashion, food and more are sold from the almost 700 shops and stalls that trade here at the weekends. The expanded market now also includes a large building with rows of small shops on the ground floor and a huge Pan-Asian restaurant on the top.
This market really represents the power of local spirit. It is an old market with a tumultuous history. In the 1930s there were around 200 stalls, but the trading slowed down after the war and stopped completely in 1990. In 2010, a group of locals and traders got together and campaigned for its re-opening, culminating in the current market that includes more than 40 stalls every week with an attractive variety. The stalls sell things such as gourmet food, cakes and preserves, ethical clothing and original paintings. Chatsworth Road Market offers an entrepreneurial scheme where locals are allowed to test a business idea on the market for four weeks cost free. In addition, much of the market is run by local volunteers, and over 50% of traders live in the surrounding postcodes.
A trip to Columbia Road Flower Market is sure to be a sensory one. The colours of all the plants being bought and sold are stunning, as are the perfumed smells that seem to have permanently settled over the market. This market is almost unchanged since Victorian times, providing Londoners with the opportunity to explore both home-grown and exotic plant varieties. The plants sold change seasonally so that, by the end of the year, the market will have seen every kind of bulb, herb, moss, cactus, shrub, chilli and house plant in addition to specialities such as Christmas trees and ten-foot banana trees. The atmosphere is friendly and inviting, with the sellers routinely interacting with customers as they shout out their prices and deals. To make the experience even more pleasant, the area surrounding the market is beautiful in itself. Check out nearby Ezra Street, which, with its array of galleries, vintage shops, pubs, delis and antique shops, has become one of the few streets in the UK to host 60 independent traders. One thing to keep in mind before embarking upon this trip is that the flower market will be extremely busy; the best times to go are either early in the morning for the pick of the crop or late in the afternoon for the best steals.
If you are looking for a break from all the crazy, rock-and-roll atmospheres inherent to most London markets, try this more adult, yet equally creative and varied, option. Greenwich is London’s most historic market, located on the banks of the Thames in what used to be an ancient village and is now a World Heritage Site. The market received a royal charter in 1700 that permitted it to operate for another 1,000 years and it is still running strong more than 300 years into the game. The variety here is extensive, making it an ideal spot to browse for gifts. The goods at the market fall into many different categories: art and crafts, fashion (tailored to size, vintage and more), books, flowers and jewellery. To complement this shopping heaven, there is a world of food options. Bakeries with homemade scones and vintage tea cups, vegan market stalls, pubs with gardens and views over the Thames and British restaurants with roast beef are just some examples of the selection available. If you fear missing out on the food scene, seek out the cookbook dedicated specifically to Greenwich Market.
Don’t let the name of this market confuse you; it is actually located on Middlesex Street, but is named after the garments once sold here. While the market is still known for its selection of clothing, it has now also embraced objects of almost every kind, such as knocked-down toiletries, copies of designer clothing, cleaning supplies, fabrics, toys and much more. The market is enhanced by its multicultural surroundings, which are evident in the crowds that visit as well as the mostly African and Asian fabric shops that sell their wares behind the stalls. All in all, from the colours of the clothes and the smells of the food market (full of international delicacies such as katsu wraps) to the affordable prices that bring in the bustle throughout the week, Petticoat Lane Market is an experience not to be missed.
Despite being small compared to most other London markets, Northcote Road Antiques merits its own little shout-out. This is one of the most important and diverse antiques markets in the UK, with one-of-a-kind trinkets ranging from grandfather clocks and handcrafted crystal decanters to rocking chairs and golden candlesticks. The largest demographic among the visitors is new parents, often looking to decorate their new homes. If you also love anything antique, vintage or retro, do not miss out on exploring this incredible collection of old silver, china, glass, print-work, furniture, lighting and even antique jewellery. On most weekdays, a visit to the antiques market can be complemented with a stroll through the more general Northcote Road Market, with its selection of interesting objects and food stalls.